Ubuntu in Germany Column

Can South African artists rise up to the ‘local is lekker’ challenge?

(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is a South African journalist and speaking in her column about the country of her birth. She had lived in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany).

Depending on who you speak to – South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is either a saint or a sinner. He recently upped the local quota on all the SABC radio stations to 90% local and with 80% on the SABC TV channels. In Germany however, local programming is par for the course.


© South African band, BlkJks is widely respected and revered in Europe – but less so at home due to little radio play. With the new SABC quota, that could change.

Shows from America and the rest of Europe feature on the smaller German channels but the public broadcasters show German content primarily. Where would German TV be without the likes of ‘Tatort’?

In South Africa we were screened mostly American content with a bit of British and European locally. During Apartheid ‘Derrick” was a huge favourite simulcast in Afrikaans. It is no surprise that the South African youth look to Hollywood for their inspiration. Local radio shows often have American voiceovers and young talent will assume American accents when singing.

I worked as a music journalist in SA for the main part of the 90’s, organised concerts and did publicity for a wide range of music types and the one constant refrain was: “Why is the radio not playing my music?” Musicians had three choices – either “play what the ‘system’ wants me to play” or “go overseas and try my luck” or “try to gig as much as possible and make it here…” Not many made it.

Artists stopped their passion to get “a real job” as there was no outlet for their music or art. Now musicians and filmmakers have such an exciting future – they can create their art and there is a possibility to get it out there.

The only hurdle is the knowledge and passion of the programmers. Do South African DJs and programmers have a wide range of music knowledge? Will they be prepared to play or flight ALL types of local content or will they be restricted to specific genres?

Already I have heard old Juluka, Mango Groove and Ladysmith Black Mabazo tunes in the short time I have listened to the radio – proof that some DJs are not as educated about local music as they are when it comes to international hits.

I hope that radio stations and TV channels take a chance and will show the full extent of our wide talent from jazz to pop to hip hop to punk to folk – our smorgasboard is plentiful. If we are restricted, it would be akin to just showing oompah music on German TV with no chance for the edgy, catchy hip hop that rules the airways.

Local is lekker – if the programmers allow it.

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